How to survive the energy crisis in Pakistan 35

By Dr M. Asif
THE load-shedding driven sleepless nights and disrupted daily routines of last summer are still haunting the people as the weather turns hot.

The situation has not improved since last year; indeed all the signs are that it is getting worse.Credit goes to brave Pakistanis for surviving through the winter despite 10-hour power and gas load-shedding. But in the upcoming summer when the mercury is going to consistently hover round 40°C, occasionally rising to 50°C in some places, a power crisis of a similar order is going to prove unbearable. Last summer the national media reported tragic deaths due to heatstroke and dehydration. The energy crisis in winter forced thousands of industries to shut down operations, affecting industrial production and the livelihoods of thousands of families.

Considering the indispensability of energy — since 1947, per capita electricity dependence in Pakistan has grown 82-fold — the current state of affairs can be regarded as a ‘national crisis’. The quickest and pragmatic solution — multi-gigawatt capacity addition based on local coal and hydropower — will require at least 2-3 years (5-7 years for hydropower) provided that bold and concerted steps are taken on a war footing.

Assuming optimistically that this will happen, we still have to devise ways in the interim to meet the electricity deficit in the country which has soared to over 40 per cent. The challenge now is how to survive this summer and how to stop the crisis from getting worse. The solution lies in a collective national effort.

Two key elements of a possible solution are: categorical change in the pattern of energy consumption and change in lifestyles.

The current energy consumption trends in Pakistan are extremely inefficient, whether it be in the domestic, industrial, trade or commercial sectors. With minimal effort, well over ten per cent of national electricity can be saved by applying only the first level of energy conservation, that is a change in attitude. It is simple, instant and effective and all it requires is a stop to using energy unnecessarily.

Leaving lights and home appliances on even when they are not being used is a common practice in our society. Similarly, many businesses such as shops dealing in cloth and garments, jewellery, cosmetics, home appliances and electronics are usually extravagantly lit. It is commonly observed that shops that could do with two or three 40-watt tube lights to meet the desired level of luminance use as many as 15 to 20 tubes. Not only does this increase power consumption, it also generates heat and makes the environment uncomfortable.

A further economy of 10-15 per cent can be achieved by introducing the second level of energy-conservation practices, especially in industry. Collectively, just through conservation, more than half of the electricity deficit can be met. However to do that, public education is essential. With the help of effective electronic and print media campaigns the government can quickly educate the masses.

The second part of the solution is a change in lifestyles. It would begin with the acknowledgement that the country is facing a national disaster and every citizen has to pitch in to overcome it. The nation has to draw a clear line between necessities (lighting, fans, TVs, computers, etc) and luxuries (air conditioners, microwaves, etc). There is not enough electricity to meet both requirements.

We will have to compromise on luxurious lifestyles in order to meet the necessities. Markets and commercial places can substantially reduce their power consumption by changing their working hours. An early start and early end to capitalise on daylight as much as possible should be recommended rather than having opening hours from afternoon until late at night.Air-conditioning, usually a sign of a luxurious lifestyle, needs to be dropped. Bearing in mind that a typical domestic AC consumes far more electricity in one hour than a fan does over 24 hours, air conditioning should not be allowed except for sensitive applications such as hospitals and research centres. The choice is between using ACs for a few hours and then doing without electricity in peak summer months or avoiding ACs and other luxury gadgets but having round-the-clock electricity available to meet fundamental needs.

Any such policy should be made at the highest level and its implementation should also begin there because charity starts at home. The common man would only be convinced of the looming crisis when he sees the ruling elite practise what it preaches.

The ruling class should lead by example in matters of power conservation. If it does so the common man will follow suit. It is time for the elite to take energy-saving initiatives like abandoning the use of central air conditioning, travelling by special flights and irrelevant use of official transport.

These recommendations are neither impractical nor a step backward, as some sections may perceive them to be. If implemented they can not only avoid the collapse of a bankrupt energy infrastructure but also ensure progress. Even those who have access to easy money and can afford different gadgets such as generators to offset reduced power supply will still feel the heat one way or the other. The bottom line is, in order to safely get through the current energy crisis the nation has to differentiate between its necessities and its luxuries.

If loadshedding is still unavoidable despite all these measures, Wapda/KESC should organise the cuts in a sensible way to cause minimum discomfort. Loadshedding schedules should be properly planned and announced.

The writer is a lecturer in renewable energy at Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
Courtesy: Daily Dawn, 19/3/2008


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35 thoughts on “How to survive the energy crisis in Pakistan

  • alia

    well i think its good but 1 more thing i wana asked that how much the intensity of this problem in our cuontry and please view the full citation of the article……….thanks

  • Fahad Siddiqui

    Hello sir, i am a student of MBA . i am making a thesis on
    “Energy Saving Scheme and its Impact on Pakistan economy”
    please help me provide me information about that topic
    Thank you.


    The main problem is that lack of maintanance of electric machines in power plants. if any budget passed for the maintanace of machines whole money goes in black money of minister and partially distributed in other officer ranked personels. why only peoples of pakistan survive from this load sheeding problem why not politicians,b/coz we are wrong we the public of pakistan elect them and send them in assemblies..why the goverment of pakistan is still not serious on thar coal power plant and dams must be build so hydro power plants must created on dams..wind power plants must createn in coastal areas to minimize the energy and power problems..goverment of pakistan will not do so b/coz whole the money passed in budget for energy and power goes in curruption, no one here who take strong action on this serious issue which we the common public of pakistan facing…Allah Hafiz

  • mobari

    I disagree with Dr. Asif’s basic premise that Pakistan’s Electricity woes are due to wasteful use.

    I like to say first that making 1947 as the reference, in this discussion, may not be the best benchmark. We all know that Pakistan was formed out of the poorest parts of the sub-continent. It had only one University, one textile mill and one jute mill. Only because of Pakistani’s perseverance, determination and hopes, this country survived and where wise folks only gave her only few years more to live. I am glad they were all wrong.

    Better reference would be 2004 when the electricity demands were being met by the existing electric capacity. Pakistan was producing 80.2 billion MWH (about 66% from thermal plants oil/gas/coal, 2% nuclear and 32% hydro) to meet 74.6 Billion MWH demand.

    Now let me get back to why I disagree with Dr. Asif. Data indicates that much of rural Pakistan doesn’t have access to electricity and half of the population is not connected to the national grid. So what is the reason for rolling blackouts (load shedding). The data clearly points to two reasons:

    1. Poor quality infrastructure that contributes to 30% transmission losses. That, In 2004 capacity terms, amounts to more than 24 billion KWH waste.

    2. It is no secret that a significant amount of power is lost due to theft.

    In the end I would say where as reducing waste anytime and anywhere is a great policy, but it is not a contribute to the problem of any significance. To solve a problem one need to go after the big hitters. Improve the infrastructure with modern equipment and technology and improve grid security.

    When I see Pakistan’s future energy projects and alliances, I believe Pakistan is already looking to invest in increasing its capacity significantly by 2020 and also diversifying the energy sources.

    Long Live Pakistan, Retired Electrical Engineer

  • Energy Technologist

    There have been alot of talk. From hydro to wind to wave. The problem with pakistan is that, none of these options are going to work. Pakistan is a small country compared to its population. hydro dams aside from being expensive in an effectively bankrupt country, drown large amounts of precious land, so Pakistan can not meet all of its energy needs by hydro generation. wind, solar and wave technologies are not proven and are expensive toys which hardly contribute a few percentage of power demands in the most rich and technologically superior countries so Pakistan should not gamble on these toys and spend its precious money on them. Coal power plants are a very attractive option, since pakistan has coal reserves to provide its energy needs for several dozen years, but they are dirty and generally any kind of power plants are not cheap. A 1,000 MW plant costs upwards of a billion euroes, and that is only the price of the plant and does not include a billion dollar more needed to develop a large enough mine to feed coal for the plant. Nuclear plants cost several times more and can cost upto 10 billion dollars for a 1,200 MWh. Pakistan does not have the technology to make nuclear power plant and currently no other country also wants to sell nuclear plants to Pakistan due to terrorism problem. Pakistan as of now is short by 6,000 MW and as the population grows and people’s expectations shoot up and half of Pakistan that is right now not connected to electric grid, become connected, You can imagine how many plants Pakistan has to make. Also it takes anywhere between 4 years for a small coal plant to 12 years for a large dam or nuclear plant to be built.

    Right now facilities like airconditioners and computers are used by less than 10% of pakistan and most of the economy is based on ancient agricultural techniques. If pakistan is ever to become modern and industrialized then it needs, at least 1 Kilowatt hour capacity for every person. With a current estimated population of 180 million that comes to 180 thousand Megawatt hour capacity. Pakistan has now just 20 thousand. With growing population Pakistan would need more than 360 thousand MWh of energy by 2050, when Pakistan’s population hits 360 million.

    So what is the solution. Pakistan does not have money and technology to develop its own plants. Independent power producers and private generating units are also not a long term option as they are thieves selling the same electricity in Pakistan for up to 55 US cents per kilowatt hour as compared to 12 cents in Canada and United States, under the pretext of investment in a risky terrorist infested country. Only one option remains, which is fortunately for Pakistan is both very cheap and reliable as well as least time consuming. The option has only one glitch, and that is, it will accompany the wrath of USA. That option is Iran. Iran can provide Pakistan with almost unlimited amount of natural gas which is much cheaper than the prevailing LNG prices in the world. Also Iran has a very developed electricity generation system and has offered Pakistan to meet the entire Pakistani shortage of electricity by offering the subsidized rate of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Iran has even offered to build the entire transmission lines to Pakistan entirely with its own money and expertise on a record time of 14 months. If Pakistan just says ok. there will be no load shedding by the next summer. It is a very brilliant option both economically as well as security wise. Economically Pakistan will get as much power as it needs comparatively cheaply, and can spend its little money on developing industries and other needed infra structure instead of building power plants. And since Pakistan is going to be dealing with a government that is the brotherly government of Iran, Pakistan will no more need to play a slave to IPP’s. These kind of arrangements are immensely successful and promote peace and prosperity, for example almost all of the countries in continental Europe buy their power from France and Germany. But alas our leaders are too afraid of US. They have not learnt anything from Turkey which is in a similar situation to Pakistan being an American client. But Turkey despite being a client has defined its red lines with USA regarding its national security. So Turkey buys both gas and electricity from Iran, and Americans understand that Turkish people will not listen to them in these regards unless USA could satisfy their energy needs instead of Iran. But since USA can not even satisfy its own energy needs and has to import energy itself then Turks buy cheap energy from Iran. Pakistan could do the same if it had the guts to tell Americans that either they should meet the national energy needs by the next summer or that Iranians will be invited to take care of our problem. It is a choice Pakistan has to make today and not tomorrow. Iran is pakistan’s only option. And pakistan is lucky that its only option is in the lap of a brotherly country which is not only trustworhty but also eagerly willing to help out. Pakistan should not die of energy starvation while its brother is willing to feed it.

  • khalid

    your words are precious
    but u see that we do need a collective effort to IMPLEMENT your thoughts
    cause copying and pastings will only spread the word – not improve the energy problems!

  • Adil

    Thanks a lot sir.
    I needed some info about the overcoming the energy crises in Pakistan and your article just made it easy.
    It helped me a lot.
    Thanks again. Now, I can easily make my presentation.


    dr asif, aoa.
    i am LT CDR M Hassan Ansari PN, i am a marine engineer. currently i am undergoing my masters in in one of the country’s stratagic war college. i read your article and found it extremely benifitcial.sir, i have been given a thesis on this burning issue of energy crises and i have to give reccomendations on non traditional/renewable energy sources of pakistan in my thesis. since its a very importent assignment and i will get degree on the basis of my thesis and defence. i need your guidance and support in this regard. please see if u can help me in order to help pakistan.



  • Sana Khan

    Sir the in4mation wz great.It helped me alot to make my bro do his assignment given 2 him as a summer homework.thanx 4 rendering us such an effective in4mation:-)